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Survey: Lincoln, Washington, FDR top presidents; Obama 12th

Abraham Lincoln

With the arrival of Presidents Day weekend, a survey of historians ranked the United States’ chief executives from top to bottom. Not surprisingly, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt were rated the top three presidents, while Barack Obama entered the survey at No. 12.

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Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower rounded out the top five in the survey, which was released Friday. It polled 91 historians on 10 different categories of leadership for the 43 former presidents. It was the third survey released by the C-SPAN television network. C-SPAN also released surveys in 2000 and 2009.

"Once again the big three are Lincoln, Washington and FDR — as it should be. That Obama came in at number 12 his first time out is quite impressive," Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, said in a statement released by C-SPAN.

The top four spots remained unchanged from 2009. Eisenhower moved up three spots from the 2009 survey to finish in fifth place. Rounding out the top 10 for the 2017 survey were Harry S Truman (who was fifth in 2009), Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson.
The 10 categories were public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all and performance within context of times.

Obama, who left office in January, was ranked third in the "pursued equal justice of all" category and 39th in the "relations with Congress" category.

"One would have thought that former President Obama’s favorable rating when he left office would have translated into a higher ranking," Edna Greene Medford, a history professor at Howard University, told Reuters. "But, of course, historians prefer to view the past from a distance, and only time will reveal his legacy."
The worst president according to the survey was James Buchanan, who finished just below Andrew Johnson and Franklin Pierce. Rounding out the bottom five were Warren G. Harding and John Tyler, who finished below William Henry Harrison, the president who served only one month in office.